A place where Black Mothers can celebrate excellence and motherhood.

3:42 PM

Losing Grandma by Teddi Rene'

by , in
 As I sat and watched the snow begin to fall harder and stick more consistently,  a calm covered me. It wasn’t because I thought she would wake up or that she would be okay. It was because I knew it would soon be over; that we could all soon move out of limbo, waiting and watching this woman that meant so much to us, in pain and suffering. We all felt it because we all begin to simultaneously shift and move about the room. Gathering our things, we moved in silence, never taking our eyes off of her. As I looked at my mother’s face, desperately trying to burn her image in my mind, I began to think about all of the things that she would miss. All the milestones she wouldn’t witness. All the pictures she would never see or be in.

The previous day, we had an impromptu birthday party in her room complete with a cake and balloons, for my daughters 1st birthday which was 6 days away. It was important to her that she got to sing “Happy Birthday” to Billie. We knew my mother was not going to make it. I refused to cancel the party scheduled for 5 days from then at my mothers' house in the space that she spent many of her final days. “Life goes on,” I thought even though I wasn’t yet sure what that life would look like. It saddened me to know that my mother would miss out on doing the one thing that she cherished the most, being grandma. The way she loved Xavier was evident from birth and I was deeply concerned for my son. He would surely miss her and how she would sneak sweets to him after I vehemently told her not to. He would miss the inside jokes they shared, their love for inappropriate iPad games like “Plumber’s Crack” and just how she loved on him every chance she could. Damn, how is Xavier going to cope without hearing her say “ Hey Grandson! How was school?” As he entered the house daily? How would he deal with losing his best friend?

 It was unfair how she spent all of those years dedicated to young girls and showing them the sport she grew to love but would never get to see her own granddaughter on a mat. The one Christmas Billie ever experienced up til that point, she would never remember. How I would preserve the memory of my mother in the heart and mind of my daughter was a great concern. Will she remember her? Will she know who we come from? Will she know how much she was loved by her?

My heart cried for my children and the fact that they would never have that bond with their grandmother. Being raised mainly by my grandmother, the bond between grandparent and grandchildren is one that is so special to me and it was to my mother as well. In my own personal reflection on the relationship I had with my mother, I often found myself wrapped in an emotional cocoon torn between the thought that she was taken and that she gave up and left willingly. For years after she passed, I would go from being sad that she didn’t get to see Xavier make his first run to home base then quickly transition to being hurt that we weren’t worth her fighting harder for. Anger would soon consume me as I thought about how Billie would never hear her grandma scream her name from the audience as she did a final curtsy as the curtain closes on her first dance recital. Fear often visited me when another bill came because I just did not know how much it would be or if this was the one that would send up to the poor house. Life was a mess and I wasn’t sure if I was happy or sad, hurt or angry, resentful or relieved that my mother, my children’s grandmother, was gone.

How did I feel when I lost my mother? Initially, I didn’t. If I’m being honest, I am just now, 3.5 years later, beginning to grieve the loss of my mother. Until now, I have only dealt with grieving the loss of my children’s grandmother and here is what I’ve learned:

A grandparent is not a person, but a role that one takes on. I am grateful that my family stepped up in her absence and has been very active in helping with the kids. Not just watching them but truly encouraging them. They show up for their football and baseball games and scream louder from the audience than my mom probably ever could. (Actually, that's a lie. My momma had a mouth on her and would still put the other 20 of us to shame.)
Children express grief and pain in some of the most conflicting ways. It is best to just support them and get them professional help so that they can grieve and process their lost properly. Poor behavior is not always a symptom of poor listening skills or a “bad kid”. Sometimes, quite often actually, its a symptom of drastic change, pain, and avoid they do not yet know how to express.
No matter how brief the interaction or at what age, the memory of loved ones remain with children without a doubt. My daughter often speaks other grandmother and reminds me that she died but she loved us so much. Money Bags would be so proud of her Chocolate Mama.
Although we want to protect our children and shield them from hurt, we have to allow them to experience things that we can not control and we have to allow these to experience it without fear. Our fear as adults, not theirs as a kid.
No matter how long you put off grief, it will be there waiting for you. Period.

If I remember vividly, one night I heard her in pain and went to check on her only to hear her cry out the words “ I want to go with my daddy and grandma”. This cry of defeat is the last image of my mother and is etched In my mind.

With my coat and purse in hand, I say my final goodbye. Standing there in front of her, holding her hand and telling her that I loved her, try as I might, I could not carve this current moment into my mind to replace the moment she admitted defeat. While it took me some time to accept this, the moments that I create with my children daily are what I choose to focus on to manage the guilt I feel for holding on to what I perceive to be the “wrong” memory. Now, that my sister has birthed our mother’s 3rd grandchild, I often find myself thinking about how my sister must have felt not having my mother around for her pregnancy, labor and the first year. My niece will never have the opportunity to make memories with my mother.  Knowing this selfishly allows me to be joyful in what my children and I did have during her time Earth-side. Not because I don't want my niece to know my mother, but because I am grateful for what my children at least have some interaction.
Now that I’ve conquered Losing Grandma, its time to work on me.

How do I cope with Losing Mama?
3:57 PM

Confessions of a Birth mother

by , in
First, let me start off by saying thank you to Barb for creating such an amazing safe space for young mothers of color.

With that being said thank you also for making room for mother’s like me....birth mothers.

For a long time, I was afraid to celebrate Mother’s Day because I believed it excluded people like me. I thought I wasn’t worthy to be celebrated. Largely because of the stigma surrounding birth mothers because “we gave our kid up”. In 2018 I made myself a promise to celebrate myself and all of my accomplishments while acknowledging my shortcomings with the hopes of improving and loving myself deeper. In order to do that, I had to address the almost 16-year-old elephant in the room. The child that I said goodbye to the summer of 2002.

I was a high school freshman when I found out I was 22 weeks pregnant with my son. I was confused and afraid. I was trying to figure out how in the hell I didn’t know I was pregnant for so long and then the realization that at 14 I had no other alternative but to actually have a baby set in. I come from an upper-middle-class family, I was on the honor roll and was concurrently enrolled in magnet programs called “university high school” and “visual and performing arts”. So, in theory, I "shouldn’t have had time to get pregnant" and I should have been “smarter” than that. But I wasn’t, I was 14 and pregnant by 'the love of my life' (lmao), a graduating senior on his way to the army( after graduating) and also in a committed relationship.

I had communicated my concerns with my high school guidance counselor and she arranged for me to speak with the child’s father in a safe place. That didn’t go well as he began 20 questions... the first one being: " How do I know it’s mine?" That hurt because well you know WE were both each other’s first and he was still my only. He then shut me completely off, went on his senior trip, prom, graduation, and off to basic training. It should be noted during this time I was staying with my grandparents as my mother was deployed at the time. So I was alone and pregnant with tons of questions and no answers except for random people who I had met in AOL chat rooms where I was lying about my age and finally someone who we will refer to as helpfulhuman94 suggested I call an adoption agency.

I was about 7 months pregnant and I took what felt like the longest metro ride ever to a planned parenthood with my best friend. We cut school and barely talked on the way. I knew I had no idea what to do with a baby and I definitely knew I had no support for this baby. The crazy part is my entire life I felt unwanted. I’m a product of an affair, and my mother hated the fact I looked like the man that rejected her and loved to remind me of that. It should also be noted that I don’t look like my mother’s family and that was difficult because my family was toxic and loved reminding me that I was a “mistake”. It should also be noted that although my mother wasn’t a product of an affair her mother resented her for looking like her father because they ended up getting divorced. But this post isn’t about that so let’s move forward. I knew that at 14 I didn’t want to pass that nonsense on to my unborn child. So after much counseling, a court-appointed guardian, and a secret pregnancy, I decided to begin the process of giving my baby up for adoption.

The day I went into labor was crazy. My mother was home from her deployment as she and three other people knew my secret. She took me to the hospital and left. To this day I haven’t asked her why but she left me there so I did what any other 15-year-old would do, call her BFF. She came there and held my hand even cutting the cord. We cried together. It was the weirdest experience ever. I couldn’t believe that I had carried a 19inch 7lb 2oz little boy. He was perfect. I never felt a joy or love like that in all my life. They placed him on my chest and eventually he looked at me. And then my heart broke, I knew that this would be the only moment that I would have to share with him. Unlike lifetime movies when you place your child up for adoption it’s not immediate. I had to sit with this decision for 24 hours. I snuck trips to the nursery and even held him and then I knew I had to let go. I signed a million pieces of paper and shed so many tears. I was 15 making a very adult decision with my 15-year-old BFF and a court-appointed guardian.

16 years later I’m proud. I brought myself a Mother’s Day card this year. Because although I’m not raising my son I’m still his birth mother. God gave me the awesome task of carrying a life inside of me. I was worthy enough to bring an amazing human being in the world. I kept my body healthy for almost 10 months and birthed a healthy baby boy who would go forth and be the answer to another woman’s prayers. His mom loves him and has given him the best life. A life that I couldn’t. I used to beat myself up because I have friends that are teen moms and I envied them. I thought "maybe I should have kept my son." That would have been selfish, however. One of the biggest things that a mother can do is sacrifice for the betterment of their child. And what was best for my child was someone else. So I’m grateful that I was the vessel to bring him here on earth.
I also understand that just because I didn’t get the privilege to raise him, birthing him was no small task, and making probably one of the most important decisions for him wasn’t small either. So to all the birth mothers out there, I hope that you celebrate yourself and your decision you made. Happy belated Mother’s Day to you.

- G.
2:19 PM

Family Matters

by , in

 My daughters do not share a biological father. Tatiyana's father and I met/dated in high school until my freshman year of college. We grew up and apart, and spent three years struggling to find peace with one another. We clung to the word 'co-parent' as if it shielded us, masking the pain and baggage that we had accumulated over the years. We both went into a spiral, he and I both dating questionable people that none-the-less taught us a lot along the way.

At the end of 2013, there was a shift. Both of us found peace and begin to see each other in a new light. We begin to communicate with one another as a family, not 'co-parents'. I was still struggling from three more failed relationships and him from what I observed, in a good place. Still, there were bumps, but not as large and I noticed he had an eagerness to compromise more than previous years.  Being family has always been important to him but over the last few months, it had really become his thing. Then the conversation came that helped it all make sense:

Shawn: "Hey, so I just want to let you know that I'm dating someone."
Me: "Okay, cool?" *Awkward laughter from both of us*
Shawn: "I was telling you because I'm going to introduce her to Tat soon and we talked about letting each other know when brought people around her."
Outer Me: "Okay! What's her name?" Inner Me: "Welp, I'm being replaced." (As if there's a factory that you can return used moms to LOL)
Shawn: "Myesha, her and I have been dating for awhile and I think its time she met Tat."
Me: "Ok, cool! Let me know how it goes."

Myesha and Tat hit it off of course and the rest is history. In 2014, Jamal and I started dating and that meant having the conversation with Shawn about introducing Tatiyana and Jamal. Shawn, of course, was okay and Tatiyana and Jamal hit it off (what kid says no to ice cream and the playground?!) With us both having partners that we saw long-term interest in that meant when Tatiyana had events we would come together to support her.

When I first met Myesha, she was reserved and for a second I didn't think she liked me and I had all these horror stories in my head where I wondered if Shawn had told her I was crazy, deranged and just downright awful; I later learned she has to warm up to people. Our conversations were always light and friendly. Same for Jamal and Shawn, conversation light and friendly; I think sometimes it was awkward but we were all there for the most important reason -- Tatiyana.

The end of 2014 I found out I was pregnant with Jahara and beginning of 2015 Myesha found out she was pregnant with little Shawn. Our relationships continued to grow organically, me sharing tips for morning sickness, both of us venting about school and work while meeting to pick up/drop off Tatiyana. We got to a place where we would hug, rub each other bellies and laugh. There was so much unspoken and spoken excitement about how these two babies would be three months apart.

So here we are five years later - an engagement, a restored relationship, the loss of a mother figure, a nine-year-old and two almost-three-year-olds later and we couldn't be happier.

Recently, Myesha shared a photo of all of us from Tatiyana's lacrosse game and we got nothing but positive comments - some people even asking if they could share the post.  Her [Myesha] and I talked about our journey as a family together and we both are relieved and grateful that we have the bond that we have. My own mother commented on how close Myesha and I are one day saying how she wished she could've had that with my older siblings mom. " I have two girls and a son by extension. No, they're not twins, they're three months apart. We're a blended family." I get the confused look and then a relieved smile. "Oh, I get it. You both have different partners." Yes, Jan! You're correct! lol...

"Grown women shit." As people tell us both. Certainly, it can be but I don't think that it can be simplified to that one statement. I had to heal, forgive, let go and begin to decide what works for me individually and as a mother with/without other peoples approval. I had to learn to take some critiques for what they were and some as just information. In order for me to have the amazing relationship that I have with Myesha, I had to unpack a lot of shit, one of them was receiving critiques on how I raised Tatiyana pre- Jahara. Not many knew but at one point before Myesha, before Jamal and I started dating, and before Jahara and little Shawn I was working two jobs, going to school full-time, running a chapter with my Line Sister and studying for the LSAT. Spoiler Alert: I ended up in the hospital after passing out from exhaustion.

During that time, I struggled with balancing it all and being a mother; looking back I'm proud of what I did at 20/21 because most couldn't, now here I am at 26 working full-time, running a business, a blog, a youtube channel and raising two children *WHEW*.

Prior to me being unapologetic about how I raise my girls, someone (especially on her dads' side) always had something to say about her hair, clothes, etc. and it would make me feel so small. I would stay awake crying convinced that I was the worlds worst mother.  I realized my biggest fear is that she would come around and critique my motherhood as everyone else did. I felt like I failed because I couldn't do XYZ instead of surrendering to the truth: I can't do everything all the time but I will give my best effort to what I can.

After a while, I began to notice little things: Tatiyana would come home with a style that lasted for weeks versus my typical Minnie mouse ears and ballie hairstyles that I sent her in and her folder would be organized and I could just go through it quickly.

 I realized that Myesha wasn't, in fact, judging me, she was instead helping me. That helped me to open up more (it's also part of why I curated Millennial Mocha Moms). I realize that Black motherhood is what we say it is and sometimes you may need a little more help from your village than what you're saying. Even if that means a finger wag from the old-school super Black woman who cooked, nursed 6 babies on one breast simultaneously, read the bible and still found time to press her husband work pants.  I realized that sometimes it can be a struggle to not even get yourself together but other people as well and that its okay to just let your daughter rock a puff for a week or two, hell even a month, fuck who has something to say about it.

All of this time I feared she was going to judge me for where I, in my eyes couldn't measure up and here she is helping not once pointing out (at least to me) where I had fallen short. For that, I love her even more, not just for what she does but for who she is. When people ask me how I feel about Myesha and Shawn I light up with joy because how happy they are with each other. One thing I always say and it's very true, I'm so glad that God made Shawn and Myesha for one another. It's amazing when we are loved by many but it is extraordinary when we are loved by those created with us in mind.

Our blended family works because we all love each other very much. We all want the best for one another especially Tatiyana, Jahara and little Shawn. We make sure that we show gratitude to one another and do things together. I talk the talk about loving and putting fellow Black women first and making sure Tatiyana understands that. What better way to show her that by having a healthy, respectful and organic relationship with Myesha, the other Black woman she looks to for Momance (Mom + Guidance). I never once questioned Tatiyana's emotional, physical or spiritual safety with Myesha, I know she cares for our daughter as though she had given birth to her as I feel the same about little Shawn. Tatiyana knows that Shawn and I will always be there for her and she knows that Myesha and Jamal will always be there for her. I couldn't have asked for a better mother figure outside of me for Tatiyana.

I love our little family -- I wouldn't trade us for the world.